Response rates were higher in the CBT group versus the usual care -- 40 percent compared to 22 percent, respectively. Worry severity and depressive symptoms were more reduced in the CBT group, and overall mental health was improved more in the CBT group, based on the Penn State Worry Questionnaire.
On another measure, the GAD Severity Scale, the researchers didn't find a significant statistical difference, but this scale hasn't really been validated as a measure of change, according to Dr. Gary Kennedy, director of the division of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
"I think this was a very carefully done study that moves us another step along in treating anxiety in older people," Kennedy said. "Cognitive therapy works for older adults. It significantly reduced people's anxiety."
Stanley and Kennedy both said they weren't aware of any trials that compared the use of medications to CBT. But, Kennedy pointed out that the two treatments aren't "mutually exclusive."
To learn more about cognitive behavior therapy, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
SOURCES: Melinda Stanley, Ph.D., professor, Menninger department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston; Gary Kennedy, M.D., director, division of geriatric psychiatry, Montefiore Medical Center, New York City; April 8, 2009, Journal of the American Medical Association